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Most Americans Like Red-Light Cameras: FindLaw Survey

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on December 17, 2014 10:25 AM

Most Americans -- 56 percent -- are in favor of red-light cameras being used at intersections, according to a new survey by FindLaw.com.

The survey comes as New Jersey pulls the plug on its red-light cameras (they were turned off overnight, the Asbury Park Press reports); several other states and cities have taken or are considering similar steps. Supporters of the cameras say they are an effective tool for ticketing dangerous drivers. But opponents argue that they are merely money-makers that do little to improve safety.

The controversy also extends to the courtroom, where multiple questions have been raised about the admissibility and legality of red-light camera evidence.

Evidentiary Issues

Drivers cited for red-light violations captured by red-light cameras have used several different arguments to challenge the admissibility of red-light camera evidence. One argument is that the information contained in and printed on the photograph created by the camera is inadmissible hearsay evidence. Hearsay evidence is an out-of-court statement used to prove the truth of the matter asserted and is generally inadmissible, although there are several exceptions to the general rule.

Others have argued that red-light camera evidence violates the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment. The confrontation clause gives a defendant in a criminal proceeding the right to confront the witnesses against him. In red-light camera cases, defendants have argued that allowing a police officer to introduce the "statements" of the computer technicians processing the red-light camera photos and data violates this right.

Other Legal Issues

A New Jersey class-action lawsuit, settled in 2013 for $4.2 million, alleged that the red-light camera system operator for 18 New Jersey cities had issued tickets to drivers who hadn't actually run a red light. In some instances, drivers claimed they were ticketed for going through the intersection on a yellow light, or attempting to make a right turn on a red light.

Other successful lawsuits in Florida and Missouri have argued that local governments' red-light camera laws were trumped by state traffic laws.

Despite these issues, the FindLaw.com survey shows most Americans are still OK with cities giving the green light to red-light cameras. To learn more about fighting red-light camera tickets and other traffic violations, check out FindLaw's section on How to Fight a Ticket.

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